The city stands for nothing. Dissipation, sex-for-cash, noise. You can’t play loud enough and god knows you don’t have the cash. Inside the Greek diner it’s bright but the countertop reeks of disinfectant. They serve a thin brown coffee that doesn’t do anything to warm you or wake you. No one comes to the city thinking of failure. It just effin happens, poot. With these hands I will cling to you. A chilly mist is being blown sideways down Thirty-second Street pushing you westward. Hey, failure can happen anywhere, kiddo. With this heart I will sing to you. You trudge toward the Hudson head down, keeping your eyes on the sidewalk like an animal tracker. A group of high school kids in hooded sweatshirts ambles in the opposite direction laughing. The city is too safe despite all these strange people living on the same island.
You head uptown on Broadway to Forty-fourth, maybe to go over to Birdland -- it’s five o’clock, the big band is about to play. Mercy, mercy, mercy. There won’t be any New Yorkers at the bar. Sure, the snub-nosed latina hostess and the bartender with his throwback pompadour and polished nails, they’ll recognize you, but the rest of the crowd will let you slip into your imagined cloak of invisibility. You’ll look around, clutching a bourbon and water. No, Birdland ain’t no church, nothing here is gonna confirm your belief in the power of love, even if the music takes you out of yourself for a little while.
Romantic attachment is weak, real love takes work. You get into a scuffle with the powers that be, you’ll find out who comes out on top. There’s more to it than buying a girl a drink. There’s more to it than walking the dog. Too bad our bliss has to miss out like this. Go to sleep in your solitude, wake up with a sourness in your soul. Turn to music, to drugs, to stuffing your face full of food. You get fat and ornery, but who cares? Nobody’s running after your arse any more.
More than anything you want to talk to someone who understands your plight, who’s been through the same thing, a religious upbringing. A loss of faith. You wanna go down to the pier and get on the ship that’s sailing for home. Wherever home may be. Somewhere else.
Won’t be Bermuda, won’t be Ghana. Won’t be Fiji, won’t be Rotterdam. You wanna sing to your mother, “Your little boy is coming home.” As though that would somehow dispel the mystery of the life she gave you. Won’t be Jerusalem, won’t be Rome. Your mother’s dead, she can’t hear you. It’s cold and gray outside the club. Across the street is that little Italian bar where you used to wait for someone just like her. Your little boy is coming home. You go inside, there’s one seat left. Perhaps you should wait some more. They pour a Primitivo you’re fond of, but wine won’t make much difference. This waiting won’t lead you to a philosophy of life. Neither will television or the movies. Books used to, but not any more.
You’ve arrived at the end of the world. Nothing to do here but try to objectify your life. List the things you’ve done and seen. The places you’ve been. The people you’ve slept with. Look at the list. It’s a joke, isn’t it? This is the shite that’s gonna get buried with you, assuming you get buried. More than likely you’ll go up in flames, leaving nothing behind but a little pile of ash. Kept in a canister on a shelf for a few years, then tossed. Go ahead, be objective. Remember o man, from dust thou art and to dust that shalt remain. Now that’s verifiable -- unlike the rest of your childish theology.